Welcome to the Late Edition, where I take a look at a set or range of sets that have been out in the wild for a while and evaluate them in the context of now.
In January LEGO released a new range of city sets. That is not that remarkable, I mean City is an evergreen theme. What was interesting is that these sets were the first to introduce the new LEGO Road Plate System. Now, 8 months after that initial release I’m taking a look back at the first wave sets and answering the question of whether the new system is the future or a flop.
What are road plates?
Firstly, a bit of a re-introduction to what the LEGO road plate system is. Doing away with printed road baseplates LEGO has now introduced a modular system of road plates. These road plates are 2 plates high and feature connection points to join them together. There are two different sized plates allowing for a range of different combinations.
The first road plate sets
60304 Road Plates
Let’s start with the most basic of the sets – 60304 Road Plates. This is like the starter set of the concept. The set features 4 of the large square road plate elements as well as a smaller half version. The line-up allows you to be flexible with your layout.
While the road plates themselves are the main focus there are a few other bits and pieces that are critical to the experience. Firstly the 6 slope elements included allow you to get vehicles from the floor on to the road system.
You also get 10 2×4 grey tiles with white stripe. You’ll need these for setting out the lines on your roads.
Rounding out the set are a few little touches like trees and road signs.
At launch I think this set was overpriced for what it contains. Now that the dust has settled on the initial release I think it’s a lot more reasonably priced if you are looking to get in to the system.
60290 Skate Park
I think it is really interesting that with the first wave of the new road plate system that LEGO included something less traditional with this skate park.
The set features one large road plate element.
The skate park consists of two ramps – one large and one small. The larger of the two ramps also features a rail at the top.
You’ll also find a small section of wall for grinds and a seesaw.
There is also a palm tree, some flags and a few barricades to round out the scene.
What I found a bit odd was the inclusion of the car. It’s a weird futuristic ute thing with branding of some energy drink brand. This set didn’t need a car.
That energy drink branding is carried across to the flags as well as decoration on the torso of one of the minifigures. It’s this weird layer of pseudo-commercialisation that I don’t really understand.
While there are parts of this set that I don’t particularly care for I can’t fault the line-up of minifigures and accessories. There is a short legged skater with a purple skateboard. You also get a BMX cyclist with an awesome dark blue bike. Rounding out the people using the park is a wheelchair athlete. I love the inclusiveness of including a wheelchair athlete in the skate park. The final minifigure is the female energy drink rep that I mentioned earlier.
Overall an interesting addition to you road plate collection but with a completely unnecessary car.
60291 Family House
We don’t usually see a lot of residential buildings in LEGO City. There are lots of fire stations, police stations and city centres but houses are usually left to the Creator line. 60291 introduces a new family house to the line-up and this is not your boring suburban house, it’s an ultramodern apartment.
This set contains one large and one small road plate. There are also four large slopes to attach to the sides of the road segment.
The road part of this set is essentially the street out the front of the house. You can set this up for a game of street hockey or you can leave it as a road if you want to add it in to a bigger setup.
The house itself consists of 3 levels.
The ground floor features a garage with Octan brand electric car charger. On this level you will also find a very tiny lounge room and kitchen.
The second level features a very spacious bathroom and what LEGO calls a hobby room. At the front of the second level you will find a nice balcony with a barbecue.
The upper level is a bedroom, this time taking up the whole floor.
The roof contains an array of solar panels.
I can see what LEGO was going for here – an ultramodern green apartment – but the execution is not amazing. The lounge and kitchen are tiny. Like barely fit a minifigure in there tiny.
Then you have a bathroom that is bigger than the kitchen and lounge combined. Next you have a tiny “hobby room”. Then there is 1 bedroom for a family of 4. I get that LEGO sets don’t need to be practical and realistic… I mean I am not questioning the lack of stairs. But I think you could create a better house at the same size.
60306 Shopping Street
If you are building a city using a new road plate system you are going to need some retail options, and that is what LEGO have brought to the table with 60306 Shopping Street.
Coming in at 533 pieces this set includes two large road plates and one small with printed crossing markings.
Interestingly for a “shopping street” the first part of the build is actually a park and outdoor gym rather than a retailer. I thought this was a bit of a strange inclusion.
Thankfully the second store makes a lot more sense. It’s a great little bakery including an outdoor seating area. The interior is very limited but the concept of this set is more about the storefronts than the interior so it’s not unexpected.
The third and final shop is something unexpected – a bike shop. I kind of like the undercurrent of physical activity that runs through all of these sets. The bike shop again is very limited in terms of interior but the exterior looks awesome, particularly the roof with it’s mountain bike display with both mountain and bike.
In the shopping street you will also find two vehicles. The first is a yellow sports car. I really like the use of the black and yellow colour scheme. The black striping really breaks up the yellow.
The second vehicle is perhaps less exciting, but I still really like it. It’s a service truck with a cherry picker. It provides a good balance and realism.
It may not be as complex as the other vehicles but you will also get an interesting cargo bike build.
The minifigure line-up in Shopping Street provides a great mix of characters. For me the standout would have to be the baker. The printed apron is outstanding.
60292 Town Centre
The Town Centre is the most expensive of the range and also the one that comes with the most road plate elements. In this one you will find three large road plates, one plain small and another small with printed zebra crossing.
You would expect the Town Centre of a city to be the most exciting place, where all the action happens. And in this case… it really isn’t. It might just be me but this set just doesn’t seem that exciting.
A large part of the set is taken up by the large car wash. The car wash is a really simple build using large clear panels to make up the bulk of the structure.
Next to the car wash is an area with some industrial recycling bins. I don’t have much more to say about that.
On the other side of the car wash is an electric vehicle charging station.
You also get a small section of park with a single tree, bench and a kids ride-on. The little rocking ride-on is very cute.
Finally there is the single real building that you get with this set, a fairly simple two-storey structure. The bottom part of the building is a pizza place while the upper level features a martial arts dojo. I like both of these as places to include in a City set but both parts feel underwhelming here.
Beyond the lackluster buildings of the set you do also get three vehicles. There is a decently sized orange recycling truck with an arm for lifting the large bins. The next vehicle in the lineup is a very small blue car. I assume this is meant to be like an electric smart car. The last vehicle is a simple fire motorbike.
What I can’t fault with this set is the minifigure lineup. The real standout is the blind minifigure with guide dog. It really adds to the diversity of LEGO City to see minifigures with disabilities represented.
A new system
How does the new road plate system work as an actual system?
I really like that the new road plate elements are thicker than a standard baseplate. The baseplates can feel a bit flimsy and if you are dealing with young kids they are going to break a baseplate easier than they are going to break one of the new road plate elements. So sturdiness is a pro, kind of…
While the individual elements are solid the connection between them makes the whole system a bit weak in my opinion. Each road plate element is connected using tiles or plates. Connecting two large elements with just a tile across the gap means that when you move these around you are going to have bits coming apart. I spent a lot of time reconnecting things as I was moving them around.
The other thing that I find a bit odd is that the road plates have sections where you can add, for example, printed tiles to create lines on the road. That is great, but removing those tiles requires you to flip the whole plate over and stick something small like a lightsaber blade in a hole to push out the tile. It’s weird and clunky and all of the sets have a long thin element somewhere in them just so you can push out tiles.
If you have all of these sets and want to change up the setup you have to remove a whole road plate and flip it over to remove a tile. It just feels like that was an afterthought to the system.
I do really like the flexibility that you get from having a system of large and small elements. The 32×32 baseplates don’t give you a lot of options for setting things out. This system is very adaptable to how you want to set out your layout.
When the road plate system was first rumoured I suspected that these would be sections connected by technic pins, like the elements that comprise the art sets. Yes that would be thicker but it would certainly be a lot more solid.
Have the road plates taken the AFOL world by storm? I asked a bunch of Australian LEGO user groups if they had included the new road plate elements in their 2021 LUGBulk orders and the response was mixed. Some said that they had included all of the elements while others hadn’t picked any of them. What is obvious is that this new system hasn’t taken Australian LUGs by storm.
My final verdict? I like the concept but there are a few things that I don’t love about it. I think there is potential there and I also think we are going to have to accept them as printed baseplates might not be around forever.
Prices below accurate at time of publication.
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These sets were provided to me by LEGO. Opinions expressed are my own.